Should the leader of UKIP offer these in 2014, I highly recommend attending one for an entertaining night out.
I went a few months ago to one of these one-man evenings, which Farage said were part of his ‘Billy Graham tour’ around the country.
Below is a quick summary of the event.
Price: Just under £20 per person, although that might depend on the venue, i.e. it could be less.
Attendance: The medium-sized auditorium was two-thirds full. Although we have two UKIP candidates in our vicinity, the majority of voters are not so inclined. That said, those who were curious came on their own behalf or on that of their friends who had other engagements.
Political leanings: The people I spoke with were guarded — not surprisingly. Several, I’m sure, were floating voters. Some seemed to have voted Labour in the past; they did not express any antipathy towards either Blair or Brown or, for that matter, Balls. I did not detect any immediate Conservatives among those with whom I spoke, however, I was unable to talk to more than a few in depth. Most appeared to be, in older American parlance (with which I am familiar), ‘middle of the road’ or ‘uncommitted’.
Pre-prandials: When I entered, Nigel Farage was autographing copies of his autobiography Flying Free, selling at £10 a copy. He had a pint of ale nearby. Farage was chatty and friendly towards the many who queued up to buy the book. Not only was he careful to dedicate each copy properly, he also dated each signing. (I later saw one.)
Act 1: Although it was not billed as such, the UKIP leader told us about his start in life. Before Farage proceeded, he opened a bottle of red wine. He told us that he was a middle class lad who went on to work at the London Metal Exchange (LME) for a few years. Every time he mentioned the LME, he was careful to pronounce the middle word ‘Metal’, possibly so that we would not leave pronouncing it ‘Metals’. He then went into his experience as an MEP, the highlight of which was his speech against the appointment of EU president Herman van Rompuy:
Note how empty the EU chamber is at 1:15 in the video. Despite that, Farage said that he was called on the carpet and asked to apologise to van Rompuy ‘and his family’. From what I recall, Farage refused to do so. This is the famous ‘bank clerk speech’, wherein Farage questions who was called to elect this man. And rightly so. van Rompuy shakes his head by way of response. To any high-tech artists out there, Farage acknowledges YouTube as ‘being made for’ him but doesn’t engage much online. His family think, according to him, that he is a ‘dinosaur’ for going out every Sunday to buy the national newspapers.
Interval: Farage asked us if we had seen the blank pieces of paper dotted around the auditorium so that we could ask him questions which he will read out and answer. We shook our heads. We had not seen them. Slowly behind, I followed him to the exit, where he sharply asked the woman behind reception to make sure that someone was ‘on it’ during the next 15 minutes. Then he vanished. I thought I knew the venue well, but, obviously, not that well …
Smokers: He had especially kind individual words for smokers having a drag outdoors during the interval. He gave a courteous nod and a general, friendly hello to the non-smokers gathered out in front.
Pieces of paper: As soon as I was finished with my cigarette, I went indoors to look for these elusive scraps of paper. There were only a few left on the stage. I quickly — and neatly — wrote out my questions in large block capitals. This is the key. I discovered later that many people were disappointed that their questions went unanswered. All of mine were answered.
Act 2: Nigel spent the next 45 minutes to 1 hour answering the questions on the pieces of paper, dropped into a hat. Yes, were he able so to do, he would form a coalition with anyone who was close to being in power in order to help preserve British democracy. He certainly supported an early amendment for a pre-2017 referendum. As for potential UKIP voters, he said that some were Conservative, some were Labour — and some hadn’t voted for anyone in at least 20 years, until now. He also supported publicans’ rights to determine whether their premises were smoking or non-smoking. This is still a particular concern of his, by the way, judging by the enthusiasm which he put into his arguments for freedom of choice. Outside of that, there was no question that he wanted the UK out of the EU. Whilst he put forward his case politely, the message was clear.
Outcome: The more left-leaning floating voters weren’t sure: ‘He wasn’t diplomatic enough. What he said to the EU president wasn’t very nice.’ In summary, the others with whom I spoke casually said, ‘Mmm. I’m not sure. Seems too heavy-handed to run the country.’
Whatever readers think about Nigel Farage, this is a thought-stimulating evening. It’s the perfect occasion for a smoky-drinky afterward, something of which he would approve. Why not invite him round to yours?